How to manage your speed and take account of the road conditions


Red car indicating to move into slow lane on a dual carriageway

Unless you’ve been living in your shed for the last few months, you’ll know that lockdown restrictions have gradually eased. This means some people have started commuting again while many others have been able to enjoy a return to leisure driving. Last time out, we talked about some of the dangers of driving after such a long break. This time we’re going to take it a step further and look at one particular aspect of safe driving: managing speed.

The right speed

Speed itself isn’t a bad thing at all. After all, our whole way of life is based around being able to get about quickly. Inappropriate or illegal speeds definitely are a problem though.

Let me explain. In road safety terms, the speed that your vehicle is travelling makes a huge difference. Take the 30 mph speed limit for example. A car moving at 30 mph is travelling roughly 3 car lengths per second*. A driver only needs to fiddle with the radio or become distracted to miss the pedestrian stepping out from the pavement. An increase of 5 mph creates even greater danger. At that speed, the braking distance required to stop the car increases by 2 car lengths**.

The safest solution is to drive at a speed that is appropriate for the road conditions. For argument’s sake, let’s think about a road with a speed limit of 40 mph.


  • The course of the road. Are there bends, junctions, dips, bumps or other road infrastructure that might make it more difficult to see an approaching hazard and to stop in an emergency?
  • What is on either side of the road? Are there any clues to suggest children and other pedestrians are likely to cross the road?
  • The volume of traffic
  • Whether there’s any mud on the road or any warning signs that suggest that there might be slow-moving agricultural vehicles ahead?
  • The weather conditions. Wet weather has the effect of increasing stopping distances and the spray from other vehicles can reduce visibility.

If these, or any other factors apply, driving at or near the 40 mph speed limit may be not be appropriate.

The golden rule is slow down and take account of the conditions. This applies whether the limit is 20, 30, 40, 60 or any other speed limit shown by the roadsigns.

Remember, the speed limit is not a target. All it shows is the maximum speed allowed on that stretch of road.

Speed in the country

Before we go, there’s one other fact worth thinking about. Contrary to popular belief, urban A roads – with all their traffic – are actually safer than rural A roads. Indeed, you’re 4 times more likely*** to be involved in fatal incident on rural A roads. So bear that in mind the next time you’re out for a country drive! Watch your speed and make sure you can respond safely when the need arises.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post. For more top tips and information, visit the Safe Driving for Life shop and pick up a copy of Driving – the essential skills.